A staggering 16.8 million Americans lost their jobs in just three weeks in a measure of how fast the coronavirus has brought world economies to their knees.
Numbers released Thursday by the US government showed that 6.6 million American workers applied for unemployment benefits last week, on top of more than 10 million in the two weeks before that. That amounts to about 1 in 10 American workers — the biggest, fastest pileup of job losses since the world’s largest economy began keeping records in 1948.
And still more job cuts are expected. The US unemployment rate in April could hit 15 per cent — a number not seen since the tail end of the Great Depression.
Sharon Bridgeman, 57, of Kansas City, Missouri, was laid off from her job two weeks ago at a non-profit that helps homeless people and is still waiting to be approved for unemployment benefits.
“I’m worried I may not have a job to go back to,” she said. “I’m also worried about the people I work with.”
In the US, the Federal Reserve announced it will provide up to US$2.3 trillion in loans targeted toward both households and businesses.
In many European countries, where the social safety nets tend to be stronger than in the US, government programmes that subsidize workers’ pay are keeping millions of people on payrolls in places like Germany and France, though typically with fewer hours and at lower wages.
The head of the International Monetary Fund warned that the global economy is headed for the worst recession since the Depression. The United Nations’ labour organization said the equivalent of 195 million full-time jobs could be lost in the second quarter, while the aid organization Oxfam International estimated half a billion people worldwide could be pushed into poverty.